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Changes likely in wake of big fire
Stricter regulations sought for mulch piles
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Forsyth County News

Other action

Also during a work session Tuesday , Forsyth County commissioners:

• Rezoned about 142 acres on Old Atlanta Road at Chattahoochee Pointe Drive from agricultural to Residential-3 for 234 homes.

As part of the project, the Ryland Group will construct a new road to the county’s Chattahoochee Pointe park and contribute $25,000 toward a sidewalk from the Olde Atlanta Club subdivision.

• Revised the procedures for election of members to the civil service board, as well as the appointment of alternate and temporary members.

• Ratified a renegotiated lease with Full House LLC for additional square footage at 475 Tribble Gap Road to move in the sheriff’s office special operations and the environmental health department.

The space is already being occupied for some sheriff’s office functions.

The monthly rent of about $16,300 covers about 17,500 square feet of space and will allow the agency to move out of the buildings downtown slated to be demolished to make way for a new courthouse.

• Approved the purchase of three new Pierce pumper trucks for the fire department, estimated at $1.7 million. Two trucks will be paid for through savings and the third from the 2012 budget.

• Discussed a condition in a 2006 rezoning for a Stoney Point Road subdivision being developed by the Ryland Group.

The condition states that the county will assist in condemnation of easements if the developer is unsuccessful.

Ryland sought affirmation of the county’s commitment. The easements are needed to hook on to public sewer.

• Postponed a vote on a bid for office supplies to Nov. 27 after discussing the pros and cons of going with the low bidder, Office Depot. Commissioner Jim Boff opposed the delay in a 4-1 vote.

• Directed the county attorney to create an affidavit warning potential buyers of county fines levied on a property, which would be put on record at the clerk of court’s office. The vote was 4-1, with Boff opposed.

Note: All votes were 5-0 unless otherwise noted.

— Alyssa LaRenzie

In the wake of a fire that smoldered for three weeks at a south Forsyth mulch business, Forsyth County commissioners are considering stricter code regulations.

The fire at Cowart Mulch Products on Shiloh Road began in the early morning Sept. 24 and eventually burned out last week.

At the commission meeting Tuesday, Fire Chief Danny Bowman said the department put about 750,000 gallons of water on the fire “and it didn’t budge it.”

“What occurred was not a mound of mulch, but a mountain of trunks and stumps and limbs that compressed upon themselves and self-combusted internally,” Bowman said. “It is a mountain of material.”

The difficulty in fighting the fire is the lack of accessibility, since the blaze burns from the inside, according to Bowman.

Citing the 2012 International Fire Code, Bowman read the recommended regulation that piles cannot exceed 25 feet in height, 150 in width and 250 feet in length.

Division Chief Barry Head said the size of the pile at Cowart likely was 50 to 60 feet tall, though it would have fallen within or near the width and length requirements.

The current county code, however, hasn’t been changed since 2005 to reflect those updated recommendations, Head said. Limiting the size of a pile could allow controlling such a fire to be “more manageable.”

In the case of Cowart, the pile had grown in the past several years with logs, stumps, limbs and organic tree debris that were waiting to be processed into mulch.

Head said the department has responded to between 30 and 35 calls at the business since 2008.

Department officials previously stated that the cause of the recent fire appeared to be natural combustion of the materials, and firefighters had the blaze under control within nearly six hours.

Staff conducted periodic checks on the site to ensure crews were monitoring the smoking pile, which created vision hazards for area residents and drivers.

Head also on Tuesday requested code changes that would add stipulations for cost recovery in the case of fires caused by neglect of noncompliance.

“It ties up several pieces of equipment to try to mitigate that,” he said.

With a county code in place, a business would submit a plan to remediate a site if it was not in compliance, said County Attorney Ken Jarrard.

If the plan wasn’t followed, the county could take the matter to magistrate court and levy fines.

The commission voted 5-0 to direct Jarrad to draft changes to the ordinance that would limit the pile size and put accountability measures in place.